Unexpected Weight Loss
An individual affected by liver cancer can experience unexpected weight loss. Over two-thirds of all individuals diagnosed with cancer have wasting of the body tissue (cachexia). Body fat and skeletal muscle are the types of tissue most commonly affected by wasting. The first mechanism that causes weight loss and wasting in affected individuals is associated with the liver's role in fat digestion. The liver produces bile, which is secreted into the small intestine to assist with breaking fats and other substances down into units the intestine can absorb.
Liver cancer stops the liver from being able to produce enough bile for this process. Less commonly, a tumor can block the bile duct and inhibits bile from reaching the small intestine. Fats that aren't digested are not absorbed and are excreted in the stool. Fats also cannot be transported throughout the body when the liver can no longer produce fat transporting proteins. The malfunctions in fat absorption and deposition result in weight loss. Other symptoms such as appetite loss and feeling full easily also produce unexpected weight loss in liver cancer patients.